I learned a lot in my 11 years in corporate America working for a multi-billion-dollar technology company. But I didn’t learn how to have an effective and successful relationship with my boss from the get-go.
Because that’s not something your company teaches you. You learn that through experience — and, sometimes, through mistakes. Some of those mistakes can cost you big on your career advancement, so I want to help you avoid them by learning some strategies right now and as quickly as possible.
Fact: Your Boss is Your Greatest Ally or Your Worst Enemy at Work
You choose which based on your relationship. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
For the first half of my career, I was just fumbling along, working really hard but not getting anywhere For the latter half, I was leapfrogging, working less than half as much, earning the most money and enjoying the best perks.
You want to know the difference? I figured out how the system works. Yes, there is a system to successful career advancement, and at the center of this system is your relationship with your boss.
Are you taking the right steps to ensure you’re becoming your boss’s number one go-to guy or gal?
Are you building a strong and trusting relationship with your boss every day?
The biggest mistake I made in approaching my career was separating this relationship from the work, as though I were getting graded only on how hard I worked. Ah, the naivete! You’re getting graded on how influential a communicator you are, regardless of your industry or line of work. And your communication is displayed through your relationships with everyone around you at the workplace. So begin to look at those relationships, starting with the one you have with your boss.
The more you invest in your relationships at the workplace while you’re working hard (I’m not saying hard work is irrelevant; it’s just not the only thing), the more successful you will be.
Gathered from a long career in corporate, here are the seven smart boss strategies that will help you leapfrog the ladder of success (so pay attention!):
1. Build Trust with Your Boss.
Your boss has to trust you implicitly. He has to have full faith and confidence in your ability to deliver, to do a good job, to keep your word, to be professional and more. This trust is the foundation of your relationship. Build it from day one and reinforce it daily.
Examples: When your boss assigns you a task, use strong affirmative words such as “You got it, John. I’m on it” instead of “I’ll try.” When you mess up on something, immediately seek out your boss, saying something like “John, I made a mistake in that report. I’m sorry — I’ll take responsibility for it and set it straight.”
2. Do What You’re Asked with a Sense of Urgency and Importance.
Don’t sit on what your boss asks you to do, argue or waste time doing it. If the boss wants it, get it done, fast. Don’t make him repeat the request, do the work with enthusiasm and always beat the deadline.
Example: As soon as you finish something, drop your boss a quick note saying, “This is all done and ahead of schedule. Let me know if you may need anything else.”
3. Respect Your Boss’s Time.
Do not ever waste his time. Bosses are busy people, and so many employees don’t get this. Don’t interrupt him just for a chat. Don’t waste his time when you’re just shooting the breeze. Schedule meetings and stick to them. Be punctual, and don’t go over.
4. Never, Ever Gossip About Your Boss.
Not only should you never gossip about the boss to anyone — even your friends and family if you can help it — you also shouldn’t tolerate others gossiping about him. Stand up for your boss. Be his cheerleader and true supporter. It pays off.
Examples: When others gossip, say “I’m not really not comfortable talking behind our boss’s back. It doesn’t accomplish anything good” or “I understand you’re frustrated, but why don’t we focus on how we can resolve it instead of gossiping?”
And if you get teased by your colleagues? Remind them it would behoove them to improve their relationship with the boss rather than poke fun at yours.
5. Never Disagree with Your Boss in Public.
In creating my career advancement program, I interviewed 25 employees, from individual contributors to CEO and Human Resource directors of midsize to large companies. Do you know the number one complaint from managers about their direct reports? They disagree and embarrass their bosses in public.
You always show unity with your boss in public. If he makes a mistake and you have to tell him, save it for a private one-on-one.
6. Be Careful What Questions You Ask Your Boss.
There are such things as stupid questions, I’m afraid, when it comes to the workplace. There are things you should already know and never ask about. Make sure your questions don’t speak poorly of what you ought to know on your own, and if you can figure it out yourself, then do your homework and do so.
Ask smart questions. It matters.
Examples of not-so-smart questions: If the boss just announced the project schedule in the team meeting, don’t ask questions about it just because you can’t remember dates or you missed the meeting. Look it up. If you‘ve just been on a business trip, don’t ask how to file your expense report. Learn how to do it. Be self-sufficient.
Examples of smart questions: Ask big-picture, open-ended questions about the impact and mission of your projects, the company direction and the challenges you might anticipate for the project, such as “How do you foresee this project impacting our team in the next quarter?” or “How could we best overdeliver on this for our stakeholders and leadership team?”
7. Make Your Boss Look Good. All the Time.
Ask yourself if what you’re doing is putting your boss in a good light in front of his peers and his own boss. Give him credit when you can and hold back criticism. Making your boss look good ensures his success, and that in turn means he’ll be more likely to want to support you and help you advance in your career.
Examples: You finish a project presentation to your customers and add, “I want to thank Bob for his total support. We couldn’t have done this project without it.” Or you have a chance to speak to your boss’s boss and say, “We’re very lucky to have Bob in this organization. He challenges our team as well as supports us. That’s what we need to be our best.”
When you do this type of endorsement, do it sincerely and matter-of-factly, without faking it and without being overly dramatic about it, so it comes across as genuine and professional.
I’m sure you have your own strong opinions about your boss (I did for every single one of mine), but I hope you’ll put these proven strategies for climbing the ladder of success to work. And I wish you nothing but success in your career journey!
How can you improve your relationship with your boss?